Serge Gnabry scores hat-trick as Northern Ireland crash to Germany loss in final Euro 2020 Qualifier


Germany secured top spot in Group C of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying with a 6-1 victory over Northern Ireland in Frankfurt on Tuesday.

Michael Smith opened the scoring early for the visitors, but Serge Gnabry equalised soon after and Leon Goretzka put Germany ahead just before the break .

Gnabry put the game out of sight as he completed his hat-trick with two second-half goals before Goretzka's second and Julian Brandt's late strike confirmed Germany topped the pool despite the Netherlands' comfortable win over Estonia. 

Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying via Group C were ended by Saturday's 0-0 draw with the Dutch. But Michael O'Neill's side will have another chance in March's play-offs.

Smith gave Northern Ireland a dream start when he found the bottom corner with a brilliant right-footed effort from 25 yards.

The response from Germany was almost immediate when Gnabry forced a superb close-range save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell before Ilkay Gunodgan headed against the post in the 12th minute.

Five minutes later, Gnabry did equalise. Jonas Hector cut the ball into the box, Gnabry took a touch with his left foot, swivelled 12 yards from goal, and hammered home with his right.

Ireland responded well, and their spirited defence looked set to get them to the break with the scores level until they lost concentration in the dying stages of the first half.

The enterprising Hector delivered another ball across the box in the 44th minute, and after it was missed by Gnabry and two Irish defenders, Goretzka bundled home from six yards.

Two minutes after the break, Germany effectively wrapped up the points.

Gnabry again received the ball in space in the box, took a touch, and buried his finish with consummate ease. 

From there it was damage limitation for the visitors.

Toni Kroos forced another fine save from Peacock-Farrell and Gnabry headed a brilliant chance wide.

But the 24-year-old atoned just after the hour when he secured his hat-trick, out-muscling Tom Flanagan and scoring from a tight angle after a pinpoint through-ball from Brandt.

Goretzka got his second 18 minutes from time with a nonchalant finish from the edge of the box. And Brandt completed the rout with a powerful strike in stoppage time after he beat the offside trap. 

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